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Feds: Denying 'devastating' terror plot endangers Aurora man's plea deal

The feds say Jonas Edmonds admitted plotting to attack the National Guard base in Joliet, but now is trying to avoid responsibility, which could alter his sentence, which has not been handed down yet. | File photo

An aspiring Aurora terrorist might have “seriously jeopardized” his deal with federal prosecutors by denying this month that he planned to attack an Illinois National Guard base in Joliet on behalf of the Islamic State.

At most, it could cost Jonas Edmonds an extra two years in prison.

Edmonds, 30, insisted last week that his plot was simply “bold talk” and “bravado” fueled by marijuana and a need to prove he was a “sincere Muslim.” But Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas noted in a court filing Wednesday that Edmonds pleaded guilty to planning a deadly attack that “could potentially have rivaled other ISIL-inspired attacks in Paris and California.”

“The impact of the attack — on the National Guard members, their families, and this nation’s psyche — would have been devastating,” Jonas wrote.

Prosecutors are recommending a 21-year prison sentence for Edmonds, but Jonas said Edmonds should not get credit for accepting responsibility if he denies he would have followed through with the attack. Edmonds’ sentencing is set for Jan. 27. Under federal guidelines, he could face up to 23 years.

A criminal complaint against Edmonds and his cousin, Hasan, suggests undercover federal employees kept close tabs on the pair as they formed their terrorist plot. Jonas Edmonds dropped his cousin off at Midway Airport in March to catch a flight to Egypt to join the Islamic State, and then he returned to his cousin’s home to collect the uniforms Hasan Edmonds once wore as a member of the National Guard.

Jonas Edmonds planned to disguise himself in the uniform and attack the Guard base where Hasan Edmonds had trained. He had hoped to kill as many as 120 soldiers, prosecutors have said. Authorities nabbed them both, arresting Hasan Edmonds before he could catch his flight. Hasan Edmonds also pleaded guilty last month.

James Graham, Jonas Edmonds’ attorney, wrote last week that Edmonds believed “the person who had the most knowledge about the base” — Hasan Edmonds — “was on a plane leaving the United States.” He said Jonas Edmonds didn’t gather any weapons, nor did he set a date for the attack.

But Jonas said the cousins surveilled the base, and Hasan Edmonds told his cousin where to go, “which hallways to go down and which were dead-ends, and how to make a successful escape.”

“Even without Hasan’s tutoring, the defendant’s lack of complete familiarity with the Guard base was no barrier to his ability to kill a great number of our nation’s finest,” Jonas wrote.

Hasan Edmonds (left) was to fly to join the Islamic State, while his brother, Jonas Edmonds, was to attack the National Guard base where Hasan once worked. | File photos